Monday, October 10, 2011

Handbook for Mankind - Tweeted Version

Tweets from “Handbook for Mankind” originally written by Ajahn Buddhadāsa Bhikkhu, the famous Thai Buddhist monk who belonged to the forest tradition and founded Suan Mokkh, an international meditation retreat centre. (Thai: พุทธทาสภิกขุ, May 27, 1906 - May 25, 1993)

Between September and December 2010 I sent just over 70 tweets summarising the main points from the book. I was both an experiment in reducing a text to bite-size pieces and a way of gaining a deeper understanding of this important document. Though I didn't tweet the whole book, I hope what I did send gave my readers some of the essence of its message.

1 Buddhism is a means of conquering birth, aging, pain and death, and destroying mental defilements.
2 The Buddha discovered how to conquer human fears, a practical method for eliminating suffering.
3 "Buddhism" means "the Teaching of the Enlightened One."
4 A Buddha is an enlightened individual who knows the truth about all things.
5 A Buddha knows "what is what" and behaves appropriately regarding all things.
6 Buddhism is based on intelligence, science & knowledge to destroy suffering & its source. A
7 Paying homage to sacred objects via rites & rituals, making offerings, praying is not Buddhism.
8 To attain liberation we first examine things closely to come to know & understand their true nature.
9 Buddhism sets no store by making libations of holy water, or any externals, spirits or celestial beings.
10 Rather, Buddhism depends on reason & insight; it doesn't demand conjecture or supposition.
11 Buddhism demands we act in line with our own insight, not take any other's word for anything.
12 Religion is a many-sided thing. Many look at it from the wrong angle, & Buddhism is no exception.
13 Buddhism: a practical method of liberating self from suffering by realising true nature of things.
14 Ceremonies like setting up trays of food as offerings don't fit with Buddhist principles.
15 The Dharma, now so overlaid by ceremony, has been obscured, falsified & changed.
16 Some are attracted to Buddhism for its moral teaching: harmony, honesty, gratitude, good, merit.
17 Some see Buddhism as truth: knowing emptiness, transience, non-self, dukkha, way to end of suffering.
18 Some see Buddhism as religion: practice morality, concentration, insight, release from suffering.
19 Some see Buddhism as psychology: describing the nature of the mind in remarkable detail.
20 Some see Buddhism as scientific: that is verifiable by clear experimental proof using introspection.
21 Some see Buddhism as culture, some aspects held in common, others better & higher than other cultures
22 Of these, the one a real Buddhist should take most interest in is Buddhism as religion.
23 Look at Buddhism as direct practical method to gain knowledge of true nature of things.
25 At very least see Buddhism as art of living – being a skilful and competent human being living well.
26 We need to develop “Three Lustres” - moral purity, tranquil & steady mind, wisdom & clear insight.
27 As our guide to living, Buddhism brings spiritual cheer & joy, disperses depression & disillusionment.
28 One who organises life in accordance with Buddhist Art of Living is victor over all things about them.
29 Victory over animals, people, possessions is genuine bliss.
30 Buddha Dhamma will enrapture & nourish a mind that has developed a taste for it.
31 Real Buddhism is not books, manuals, repetition of formulas, rites or rituals.
32 Real Buddhism is practice via body, speech & mind that destroys the defilements.
33 Morality stops short of eliminating craving, aversion & delusion, so can't do away with suffering.
34 Buddhism aims at eliminating various kinds of suffering attendant on birth, aging, pain & death.
35 Buddhism is system leading to organised practical understanding of true nature of things - “what is what”.
36 To know how things really are in all clarity is to attain the “Fruit of the Path”.
37 Knowing “what is what” means disenchantment with things takes the place of fascination.
38 When we know “what is what” deliverance from suffering comes about automatically.
39 Seeing all things as impermanent, unsatisfactory & not selves, there's nothing worth attaching ourselves to.
40 Realising nothing's worth attaching selves to, there's a slipping free from their controlling power.
41 Essentially the Buddha's teaching is nothing but knowledge of “what is what” i.e. true nature of things.
42 First Noble Truth which points out all things are suffering tells us precisely what things are like.
43 But we fail to realise all things are a source of suffering & so we desire them.
44 If we knew all as source of suffering, not worth desiring/grasping at, we'd be sure not to desire them.
45 Second Noble Truth points out that desire is the cause of suffering.
46 People desire this, that & the other simply because they don't understand nature of desire.
47 3rd Noble Truth points out freedom from suffering, Nirvana consists in complete extinguishing of desire.
48 People don't realise Nirvana can be attained at any time/place, soon as desire's completely extinguished.
49 Not knowing facts of life, people not interested in extinguishing desire, nor Nirvana.
50 4th Noble Truth is Path i.e. the method for extinguishing desire.
51 People don't recognise it as very point of support, their foothold to be reinforced.
52 People not interested in Noble Path which is a most horrifying piece of ignorance.
53 We can see 4 Noble Truths tell us clearly just “what is what” & Noble Path is the most precious thing.
54 All phenomena arise as result of causes; by eliminating causes, all phenomena may be brought to end.
55 Nil's permanent, just effects arising from causes, developing through them & ceasing with their cessation.
56 All phenomena are merely products of causes.
57 World's just perpetual flux of natural forces incessantly interacting & changing.
58 Buddhism points out all things are devoid of any self entity.
59 All just perpetual flux of change so inherently unsatisfactory as lacking freedom & subject to causality.
60 Unsatisfactoriness ends when process stops; this happens when the causes are eliminated.
61 Thus all things just appearances, so shouldn't be fooled into liking/disliking them.
62 Rendering mind truly free involves escaping completely from causal chain by eliminating causes.
63 Buddha became monk to answer what is suffering, its cause & what is freedom from it.
64 To attain perfect & right knowledge of “what is what” is ultimate in skill – and aim of Buddhism.
65 Another important teaching is 3 characteristics – impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, non-selfhood.
66 Saying all things r impermanent = all things change perpetually, nothing is unchanged even for an instant.
67 Saying all things r unsatisfactory = all inherently have property of conducing 2 suffering & torment.
68 That all r not selves = in nothing at all is an entity we might regard as its “self” or call “its own”.
69 If we grasp or cling to things the result is bound to be suffering.
70 Things r more dangerous than fire, since we can see fire & keep away, while things are fire we can't see.
71 Thus we go about voluntarily picking up handfuls of fire, which is inevitably painful.